This is my "event comics" rant. If you're sick of those, feel free to move on; I'll completely understand.
I'm sure you've read by now any number of diatribes about how marvel and DC have largely shifted to the event comics format. You know, where there's one line-wide concept that ties dozens of titles together in a larger story? Civil War, Sinestro Corps War, World War Hulk, Secret Invasion, Countdown, etc. A lot of the discussion seems to center around the notions that A) the content is editorially driven, and B) there's a blatant attempt on the part of the publishers to coerce you into buying comics you wouldn't normally buy, just to get the "complete" story of the event. Those are certainly fair targets for attack, but I'm going to hit another one that isn't spoken of much. (Well, I don't recall seeing it at any rate.) In point of fact, the publishers are lying to their audience.
One of the reasons these events have begun happening with greater regularity is that publishers have been continuing to up the ante on their stories for several decades now. At first, a hero's biggest concern was that his secret identity might be uncovered. Then, there was the possibility of a loved one getting hurt. Next, the whole city was in peril. Soon, it was the planet. The galaxy. The time-space continuum. And so on. Part of that increasing level of threat, if following a logical progression, would involve more and more people. Sure, the Fantastic Four were able to fend off Galactus, but you have to call in the whole roster of Avengers to get rid of a Kree invasion. That continued escalation has continued to the point where the next natural extension is to involve EVERYONE. Not just the heroes, but everyone. Paul Jenkins' various "Front Line" books are premised on the fact that the lead protagonists are normal folks who, until then, barely had been named.
Coupled with the increased level of threats to the characters, publishers then find themselves in the unenviable position of having to ramp up the hyperbole surrounding the event as well. It's not just affecting Captain America anymore, but the whole universe. Every character is touched in a profound way. "Nothing will ever be the same!"
Except, of course, that's a lie.
DC and marvel both have large a caches of characters that have achieved a certain level of popularity. They achieved that popularity because of a certain mix of character traits that were given to them in their creation and that mix proved to resonate with readers. To maintain that popularity (and the associated cash flow) the publishers ideally would keep the characters from changing as little as possible to continue to appeal to readers in the same way. They have a vested interest in ensuring that "Nothing will ever be the same" never happens. Batman needs to keep being Batman in order to keep selling.
There's the not-infrequently-cited "illusion of change" with new costumes or new powers or whatever, but the reason those work at all is because the changes made are superficial. John Byrne somewhat famously did exactly back on his Fantastic Four by replacing the Thing with She-Hulk, and having the Human Torch date Thing's girlfriend. The dynamic was virtually identical -- whereas Ben felt apart from his friends and humanity because of his appearance, Jen felt like a fifth-wheel with regard to how comfortable she was being a part of the FF's family. The other characters all interacted with her in almost the exact same way that they would've interacted with Ben.
But here's the thing: Life is constant. Whatever happens on the planet today, it's the same shit, different day. Despite the popularity of the refrain, the world did NOT change after 9/11. People are people, and there will always be fights over land and money and power. There will always be leaders who seek to take personal advantage of political crises. There will always be a struggle between individuals' rights and the rights of the state. People will always hate and fear what they don't understand. People will always shout loudly in protest, but not act on it. People will always try to leave their mark on the planet in whatever way they can.
Yeah, we've got cars and planes and rockets now that weren't here 100 years ago. And we've got television and computers and cell phones. But that's all fluff. It's superficial. The basic elements that make us human are no different than they were 5,000 years ago.
So, for a publisher to claim that their stories will change everything forever is, in fact, a double-lie. Because if they're reflecting real life (which they claim to) then there shouldn't be an effective changes, and they've also got that vested financial interest in perpetuating the status quo.
So, do two lies make a truth?
It turns out that it doesn't matter, because they're lying a third time anyway. We've seen time and time again that any time a comic creator at the Big Two does try to make a substantive change, it's over-ridden a few years later. Spider-Man's had this done I-don't-know-how-many times. "No, he's not married to MJ any longer. And he never was married in the first place." "No, Aunt May isn't dead. Again." "No, the clone that we told you was the real Peter Parker really wasn't." "Yes, even though he swore he'd hang up his tights, Spider-Man is back in action. Again."
Let me ask you this: how many of you really believe that we'll never see Steve Rogers in the Captain America uniform again?
You're being lied to.
Don't get me wrong, I expect any degree of marketing or advertising is going to have some measure of falsehood to it. And for as much as I try to tell the truth all the time, I'll admit that there are occasions when a lie is warranted for "higher" reasons. But that I'm being lied to three-times-over in one claim strikes me as a bit over-the-top, and is yet another reason why the event comic stories are really wearing thin for me (even though I don't buy them in the first place).
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